D-Force (SNES) review
"The D could also stand for Dumb — how I feel for playing this instead of any other shooter."
When it comes to bad retro shooters, D-Force deserves credit. While many such offerings merely try and mostly fail at trying to pull off one sort of game, this one has a pair of failures to its name. For a seven-stage SNES game, that's quite the feat!
For the four odd-numbered stages, you'll mostly be playing a really generic vertically-scrolling military-themed shooter. The game's plot involves you taking an Apache helicopter to take out one of those wacky Middle Eastern dictators and you'll be blasting all sorts of planes, tanks and vehicles my eyes weren't quite able to make out before they inevitably were blasted off the screen. The closest thing to an innovative moment in these levels comes at certain times when a bit of rudimentary Mode 7 action takes place to signify your chopper descending from the sky to the land because you reached an enemy base.
Now, the D in D-Force stands for Dimension and that word plays a big role in the even-numbered stages. Here, all the military this and Middle East that completely fall by the wayside in order to deliver a more otherworldly experience. Oh-so-completely and plausibly "explained" by the instruction book as some sort of program involving "chemical biologists" devised by Mr. Dictator, you apparently are now flying through various alternate dimensions to fight through prehistoric, ancient Greek and futuristic realms with the added benefit of being able to raise or lower your flying altitude at will by pressing the shoulder buttons.
Does this make sense? No. Does it really work? No.
The main problem is that D-Force winds up feeling like two really short and blah games tossed together to make one which still isn't good, but sadly was long enough to warrant hitting the market. Setting aside the various aesthetic issues such as how the graphics aren't particularly good or how most, if not all, the music is just sort of there and not adding anything to the playing experience, both "games" have their own sets of issues.
With the odd-numbered stages, it's pretty simple: It's generic as hell. You'll fly over oceans and deserts and landmasses, shooting all the way, before descending to a base. There will be a mini-boss and boss fight. There will be tanks and planes, but they won't possess any of the cool factor native to such foes in the more well-known military shooters. Repetition does that to you. I remember enduring the base part of the third stage and wondering just when it would end because I was flying over a bunch of buildings that all looked the same and were arranged in the same patterns, while shooting a bunch of vehicles that appeared and attacked in the same formations.
Your chopper is no better because there are no options for customization. No big-ass lasers, no wave guns, no shields and no colors attached to those weapons so it looks sweet when you've powered one up and are literally covering the screen with ammo. Instead, the multitude of power-ups you collect follow the same pre-set path. Your gun will go from a dinky little burst to a small spread to a larger spread and then those bullets will get replaced by presumably more powerful blue ones. For supplementary fire, you'll obtain a couple guided missiles, so you're at least capable of attacking things from other angles when necessary. So, yeah, bullets that can be powered up into differently-colored bullets and missiles. Thrilling stuff, there.
Dull stuff like this makes a person think about things. Such as why, if you're taking on an adversary in the Middle East, does the fifth level send you into a frozen environment? Or why is the boss of that level is a tank fused with what seems to be a massive alien bug? Or why does the seventh stage's boring boss-rush corridor conclude the stupid thing with a foe that's far more mundane than that bug-tank? Not gonna lie, Asmik; I have questions. And unless the answers to a couple of them revolve around Saddam Hussein building an Antarctic base and accidentally unearthing The Thing, I'm going to be very disappointed.
Just as many questions revolve around those even-numbered stages, although they have more to do with me wondering just what they're supposed to add to, really, anything. The prehistoric level was far easier to get through than the game's first level as long as you have any sort of competence at hitting buttons to raise and lower your flying height. The ancient Greek and futuristic ruins levels at least put a bit of challenge into dodging attacks and strategically adjusting your level when the action gets a bit hot, but all of them were really short and felt more like placeholders to extend the game's length. Well, that and an excuse for Asmik to shoehorn in some Mode 7 effects as your helicopter goes up and down.
I mean, at least in comparison to most of the other foes, the dinosaur and two-headed dog that ended two of those levels looked cool. They were so punchless I wondered if they were ripped from a game designed for small children, but they did briefly catch my attention in a somewhat positive way, which is more than I can say for much of this game.
This is a game with no system for delivering bonus lives. You simply go to the Options screen before playing and choose how many you want — up to nine — and that's that. This is a game that drowns you in power-ups in the military levels and gives you none in the even-numbered ones. And, as I eventually noticed, it even seems to take away your missiles in those. Sad thing is, I didn't even notice they were gone until I was in the last of them! This is a game where I would give a bit of praise for having some frenetic action during the odd-numbered stages…if not for the fact that the action intensifying tended to lead to slowdown. Whew! Dodged a bullet there; I almost said something complementary about what I experienced!
I guess that's the D-Force experience. A shooter that tries to do a few things, but doesn't really succeed at any of them, where the nicest thing I can muster the energy to say is that it's not broken and, therefore, is fundamentally playable. It won't be fun to play for a laundry list of reasons, but that didn't stop me! No matter how much I wish it had...
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 24, 2022)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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